The 15 Books You Must Read in 2010

Posted by Patrick James

the-good-list-booksWe get a lot of emails, letters, and comments from community members asking us which books we're reading. So we polled members of the GOOD team and compiled our suggestions here. Consider it-as well as anything by J.D. Salinger, Howard Zinn, or David Foster Wallace (including Wallace's unfinished The Pale King)-your 2010 reading list.

1. The Savage Detectives (F)
Author: Roberto Bolaño
Suggested by: Andrew Price, Senior Web Editor
Why read? Bolaño's wit and sexual energy flies off the page as the novel's journeymen romp through Mexico City, Barcelona, Israel, Liberia, and a desert in Northern Mexico. If you finish it in the next few months, you will be ready for its companion 2666, whose English translation is coming this year available now.

2. Anna Karenina (F)
Author:
Leo Tolstoy
Suggested by: Siobhan O'Connor, Features Editor
Why read? Because you've been hearing train-related questions on Jeopardy for years, and it's finally time you got in on those jokes. It doesn't hurt that Tolstoy is an undeniable master of the written word.

3. Fast Food Nation (NF)
Author: Eric Schlosser
Suggested by: Siobhan O'Connor, Features Editor
Why read? All your friends have read it. And while you think you get the gist of its message, an overview is no substitute for a real experience-especially when we're talking about what we put into our bodies. Consider pairing with The Omnivore's Dilemma and a viewing of Food, Inc. to ensure you never look at lunch the same again.

4. Open: An Autobiography (NF)
Author:
Andre Agassi
Suggested by: Ben Goldhirsh, Founder
Why read? Most media conversations regarding Agassi's memoir reduced the book two talking points: his drug use and his wig. Hot topics, sure. But they're really just footnotes in an brutally honest, thoroughly inspirational story of human endurance.

5. The Stranger (F)
Author: Albert Camus
Suggested by: Sebastian Buck, Strategy
Why read? Because it has one of the best opening lines in the history of the printed word-depending on your translation: "Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don't know." And what follows is utter brilliance.

6. Point Omega: A Novel (F)
Author: Don DeLillo
Suggested by: Zach Frechette, Editor in Chief
Why read? That it's a DeLillo book set in the middle of a desert "somewhere south of nowhere," where a war adviser has gone "in search of time and space," should be compelling enough. That it's a slim 160 pages makes it rather brisk for a meditation on death. Consider pairing Point Omega with his more hefty Underworld and you've got yourself some time for pondering the subject.

7. Going Rouge: An American Nightmare (NF)
Authors: Richard Kim and Betsy Reed
Suggested by: Eric Small, VP of Product Technology
Why read? Sarah Palin wears a lot of different hats-church-goer, hockey mom, sex symbol, media-hating politician, member of the media-and Kim and Reed explore them all. Consider pairing this exploration of American obsession with Palin's own memoir for a fun game of conflicting histories.

8. Freedom (F)
Author: Jonathan Franzen
Suggested by: Patrick James, Associate Editor
Why read? The 9,000-word Freedom excerpt "Good Neighbors" that appeared in The New Yorker's June, 2009 Fiction Issue was vintage Franzen, pitting hapless middle class families against each other during two decades of gentrification in a St. Paul neighborhood. And a hilarious, teeth-baring, full-length follow-up to The Corrections is long, long overdue. (Though we'll have to wait until fall for this one.)

9. This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession (NF)
Author: Daniel J. Levitin
Suggested by: Tali Catz, Print Distribution Coordinator
Why read? For most of us, attempting to explain why, precisely, a certain song resonates so deeply would be an exercise in futility; it's ineffable, we might say. For Daniel Levitin, there are scientific explanations behind the rhythms, keys, and time signatures that move us, and he's willing to fill you in on them.

10. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers (NF)
Author: Mary Roach
Suggested by: Tali Catz, Print Distribution Coordinator
Why read? Roach, a Salon and Reader's Digest columnist, has gone to great lengths to turn dead bodies into a hilarious-and thought-provoking-subject. It's probably the most informative take on a macabre topic of the past decade.

11. Strength In What Remains (NF)
Author: Tracy Kidder
Suggested by: Amanda Millner-Fairbanks, Education Editor
Why read? Kidder's Mountains Beyond Mountains is an undeniable modern classic. In Strength, the author follows Deogratias, a young medical student from the central African nation of Burundi forced to flee his home during a time of ethnic violence. The improbable journey takes the young man to New York City and back to Burundi, where he attempts to build a medical clinic. "Above all," Kidder says, "this is a book about coming to terms with memories."

12. Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives (NF)
Authors: Nicholas A. Christakis and James H. Fowler
Suggested by: Hillary Newman, Community Manager
Why read? Obesity, smoking, and happiness, Christakis and Fowler find, are all socially transmitted behaviors. That means that what you do can be determined by the people you know-as what they do is contagious. (For more, read Andrew Price's interview with Fowler.)

13. PayPal Wars (NF)
Author: Eric M. Jackson
Suggested by: Craig Shapiro, President
Why read? In a little over a decade, PayPal has become a ubiquitous service, but its birth and short life have not been without its fair share of growing pains. Industry insider Jackson recounts the turbulent history with wit, energy, and plenty of dirt.

14. Rework (NF)
Authors: David Fried and David Heinemeier Hanson
Suggested by: Craig Shapiro, President
Why read? Mark Cuban, the billionaire co-founder of HDNet and Broadcast.com and owner of the Dallas Mavericks, puts it best: "If given a choice between investing in someone who has read Rework or has an MBA, I'm investing in Rework every time.  This is a must read for every entrepreneur." The book outlines the business principles behind the successful web application company and blog 37signals, and does it with grit.

15. Wisdom Book (NF)
Author: Andrew Zuckerman
Suggested by: Atley Kasky, Designer
Why read? Inspired by the idea that wisdom gained from life experience is the best gift one generation can pass down to the next, and assembled with the help of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Wisdom is a collection of stunning photography and riveting interviews with such luminaries as Clint Eastwood, Buzz Aldrin, Jane Goodall, Nelson Mandela, Yoko Ono, Madeleine Albright, Frank Gehry, and many, many more. Each copy comes with a 60-minute film.

For a few slightly more literate suggestions, consider looking at Flavorwire and HTMLGiant's reading lists.